I agree to join the National Organization of the Anvil (also known as 'El Yunque,' or 'The Anvil' in Spanish), assuming the fight for the kingdom of Christ in Spain as the most important activity in my life. I swear to keep the existence of the organization absolutely secret, as well as its members, actions and strategies. I also swear to obey its commands and act responsibly as a leader when told to do so. As a Christian knight I pledge to defend, even at the expense of my own life, this tool that God has given us to establish his kingdom on Earth."
Sitting at the table of a Madrid café, this former activist of El Yunque, a secret Christian organization allegedly rooted in numerous Spanish far-right movements, rattles off the pledge of loyalty that he made years ago, which changed his life.
According to his testimony, the rite of initiation into this secret society is markedly military. "We're a militia" [...] "You haven't chosen to come here, you've been chosen, and as of today you will belong to a caste of the chosen. Our struggle is that of the crusades, of the Catholic militants." [...] "If you intend to betray us or ever stray from us in any way, you shall find in each and every one of us an avenging judge," warns the man officiating the initiation ceremony, which ends the following chant: "Comrades and brothers, stad firmus ut incus percusat!" ("Stand thou as a beaten anvil") followed by the shouts: "God! Country! Anvil!" accompanied by loud banging on the table.
The witness continues: "I'm not the first one to come out of this with serious pathological conditions, and I won't be the last. It's a destructive political-religious organization that acts like a real mafia. They broke my spirit as soon as they realized that I was starting to distance myself. They prepared to ambush me during the María Reina ceremony, one of the obligatory yearly rituals along with the Cristo Rey (Christ the King) and the ritual of loyalty to the pope and its founder, Ramón Plata. They humiliated me, they made fun of my parents and spread rumors that I did drugs and went whoring. It was a lie, but my girlfriend, who was in Pre, the phase that comes before being admitted to the sect, dumped me and my whole world came crashing down."
He's a young man, still in his thirties, attentive and delicate who shows reserve, introspection and a bit of bitterness. He says he has put his personal and professional life back together and that if he talks, it's only to warn young people of the dangers of his former organization, also known as the Association for the Common Good, the Orchestra, the Music Band or - as their detractors call them - the Mariachis. He prefers not to reveal his identity because he is aware of the power of this secret society rooted in religious fundamentalism and far-right politics. And he's afraid of the reprisals they might take.
"What does The Anvil hope to achieve?"
"As an organization of Catholics - half-monks, half-soldiers - they seek to sanctify themselves through political struggle and their goal is to gain power. It's a hierarchical structure governed by the motto "He who obeys does not go astray." They overlap with the Church, invoking the bishops and the pope with an ethical, Christian discourse and with right-wing political and media organizations. In Mexico, where they emerged, they are more closely tied to national Catholicism. There are two types of greeting for internal use: the short version consists of putting your fist over your heart and the long version, of raising your arm with your hand in a fist.
"Do they believe in democracy?"
"In theory, they accept the social doctrine of the Catholic Church, which thinks that, despite its flaws, democracy is a more just system than others. But we also studied Jean Ousset's book Pour qu'Il règne, in which he argues that a ruling politician gets his legitimacy directly from God, and thus he must only answer to the Supreme Maker. It's a thesis comparable to Italian fascism and Spanish National Catholicism, whereby the leader only answers to God and history for his actions. They use democracy and people to achieve its ends. You can't tell anyone that you're a member of the Anvil; you've got to say that it's just hearsay.
According to his testimony, the Anvil is made up of airtight cells, to make effective the following rule: "Know no more than what is strictly necessary." He claims to have no clue how many members there are, but says there are national and international leaders. "Our enemies were masonry, the gay movement, feminism, de facto unions, abortion, Marxism, and of course, Zionism. They really downplayed the Holocaust: 'How tedious they get about that!' they would say. They also denied that the Inquisition had been terrible."
"How did you end up in the Anvil?"
"I'm a religious person. When I went to university, a friend of mine from grade school who was in Pre invited me to hike the St James pilgrimage route with young men and women from the Alfil association. I met cultivated people with ideas and interests and a program of camping trips, prayer, pilgrimage routes and cultural trips. For me, it was an alternative to drinking in the street, to life without commitments. We had training courses. The theoretical ones took place in monasteries and the self-defense ones at campgrounds in the Pyrenees or the mountains of Madrid and Gredos, sometimes at one place and other times moving around. We were trained in hand-to-hand combat and we had to fight against one another: anything was acceptable, including kicks to the testicles, the head or the liver. There were physical punishments and violence, but I never saw a firearm. Although I didn't know it then, in those courses there were already trained elephants, which is what they call organic members of the Anvil."
"What are the requirements for joining the society?"
"Getting into Pre was relatively easy, especially if you lived in Madrid's Salamanca neighborhood and came from a well-to-do, conservative family, although lately they've really opened it up. But entering the real Anvil was much more difficult. You used to have to pass a very selective EO (organic exam) that assessed information about your personality, family, opinions and hobbies provided by the people who had recommended you. Among other things, they asked you all eight of your surnames to rule out any Jewish ancestry. Having a Jewish surname didn't mean you would be automatically excluded, but almost. I was stunned when they told me the big secret, that there was a "higher organization."
"Where and how did you enter the Anvil?"
"I was given a date, a time and an address, which turned out to be the home of my superior, and I went there with a mixture of fear, because I didn't know what I was getting into, and curiosity about entering a select, secret world. After putting on the uniform, which is all-black except the shirt, they instructed me to enter a room where there were six or seven people in front of a table and the flags of Spain and the Anvil, which is a cross that branches out at the top, forming a Y. The table was covered with a cloth that had very strange symbols on it. My boss told me to get in front of it and they recited the organic prayers and gave me an alias. The ceremony lasted no more than 20 minutes. Before the final prayer, the toast and brief welcome speech, I took an oath. I was so nervous and excited that I signed it barely understanding what I was signing. Then the witnesses signed it too."
"What kind of activities did they carry out?"
"In my case, graffiti and handing out flyers against condoms, abortion, euthanasia and also whistling and protesting against Socialist leaders and Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón, the mayor of Madrid, who we saw as weak."
This former member of the Anvil goes on to say that, while he was in the organization, he wasn't very aware of the real influence of this secret society founded in Mexico in 1952 and later exported to other Latin American countries, even though he had some indications. Fourteen or 15 years ago, "what we used to call 'outside groups' had almost zero visibility. They're platforms used to multiply its influence and recruit new members, although the vast majority of those who work or collaborate with them have no idea who's calling the shots," he says.
Infiltrated into secular Christian associations, the Anvil - always according to testimonies - takes its cues from the extreme right-wing media and is attaining higher and higher positions in the ecclesiastical hierarchy. So far, all accusations pertaining to this group have been in vain, even though Article 22 of the Spanish Constitution and Article 515 of the Penal Code prohibit secret associations. Even according to Canon Law, all religious associations must have statutes and are subject to ecclesiastical authority. Criticism from Catholic groups who have felt manipulated by these platforms, allegedly fronts for the Anvil, and the testimony of a former activist are joined by accusations of sectarian manipulation made by the Madrid lawyer Pedro Leblic Amorós to the police and the minor's protection office of the Madrid region. The attorney, whose children attend the San José de Cluny school, has reported five alleged members of the Anvil, two of them important members of HazteOír. In his opinion, these individuals have ties to the association A Contracorriente, which organizes weekend trips to the mountains with minors.
"We're shocked," he says. "I have friends from the Anvil who were recruited at the age of 15 and 16, but now they're targeting younger and younger kids, behind their families' backs. On the invitation that they've sent to our children, they expressly ask parents not to participate in the trips," he says. Pedro Leblic says he has personal proof that the Anvil tries to indoctrinate minors so they will join their secret society. "For these kids, this means that the rest of their lives will be devoted to public activity, that they'll have to study certain majors and put the sect first. This results in marital and family conflicts and serious emotional imbalances. Its modus operandi is infiltration, coercion and finally, the lack of charity," he says.
The Spanish Catholic Church is keeping mum. "The Synod has not commented about the matter," says Isidro Catela, the press director of this institution. It is a thick silence, only broken by Cardinal Antonio Cañizares, the former archbishop of Toledo and current prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, based in the Vatican. "They're not called the Anvil any more; now they go by the Association for the Common Good and I think they are offering great services to society. There is no problem with them, they will be known for their deeds. I can honestly say that the parents of these students have nothing to worry about," said Cañizares in a statement to this newspaper.
The Spanish Catholic hierarchy has in its possession a study about the behavior and activities of the Anvil, drawn up with the testimonies of 24 people who belonged to or were used by this society. According to this report, to which EL PAÍS has had access, the deployment strategy of this organization in Spain and Latin America is mainly characterized by the search for power based on a messianic concept of politics. In the pursuit of this goal, the Anvil's leaders have not hesitated to put its followers in strategic ecclesiastical bodies - such as the influential Pontifical Council for the Laity - to secretly penetrate social and political structures within their grasp and to create an archive of thousands of reports and files about individuals related to them.
The authors of the above- mentioned report, all of them fervent Catholics, claim that the Anvil applies a model "of interior intelligence based on espionage and counter-espionage," copied from the system used by the armed forces. Hounding the government to pass laws supposedly favorable to the goals of the Catholic Church and the creation of networks of adolescents and young people to recruit new members are two other strategic pillars of the organization. According to the cited study, the Anvil controls platforms that played a significant role in mobilizations against the Abortion Law and the law to make education for citizenship part of the curriculum in Spanish schools, as an alternative to religion.
The authors of this report also allege, based on testimonies gathered, that this secret society has infiltrated university associations as well. With time, "the half-soldier takes over the half-monk," says this same report, coordinated by Fernando López Luengo, vice president of the association Educación y Persona.
The true objectives of this organization remain unclear. "They intend to legitimize, evangelically, their own particular political vision as if it were the only legitimate one," argues the report.
According to their inquiries, the Anvil is present in Madrid, Barcelona, Valladolid, Salamanca, Valencia, Toledo and Seville. But its tentacles extend everywhere thanks to the internet, email and the colloquiums that they organize so often, if possible featuring well-known speakers to give them a veneer of respectability and prestige. Many Christians from secular movements are asking themselves why Church leaders are keeping quiet. Does the Church accept the existence of a sect and a secret society within its ranks? It seems clear that the report has gone unheeded, even though it is backed by committed Catholics.
"Its authors would have done better to keep quiet," says Cardinal Cañizares.